Digital Marketing is Dead. The Rise of Empathetic Marketing.

Published on
February 7, 2016

by: Karthik Sundaram

Digital Marketing is Dead. The Rise of Empathetic Marketing.

We survived 2015 by trying to embrace Digital Transformation: it came at us from all corners, in all shapes and sizes, and in all forms. The Chief Digital Officer is currently the hottest job (after the Chief Dev-Ops Officer) and the role is a mix of data scientist, marketing expert, and customer experience designer. One of my CIO friends in a leading insurance firm summed up the Digital Transformation quite well:

  • We are moving from a System of Record to a System of Experiences–the business now needs to unlock all those records of data into meaningful insights to deliver relevant customer experiences
  • We are moving from a monolithic core enterprise to a fluid business operating at the edge–empowering business leaders to make decisions at the customer experience level and not be worried about outcomes
  • We are moving from a latency-riddled company to an agile and empathetic organization–both within and without
That last phrase triggered some thoughts about how we need to rethink the B2B Marketing. In the last five years, content has achieved critical importance in the enterprise, and yet we are almost always trapped in the old ways of thinking about it–what to create, how to distribute it, and where to measure the effectiveness. Going forward, I see the rise of Empathetic Marketing driving all our efforts, and here are some key principles:
  • Context before campaign: Most firms think of content around sales, campaigns, and demand generation–all tailored around their short term goals. Empathetic Marketingwill help create customer contexts, understand their ambitions and goals, and help enterprises truly build trusted relationships with their prospects and customers. It will realize that customers’ contexts change continually, and help build a marketing program that is always aligned to the current contexts. It will help build campaigns that show the business understands customers contextual goals, and drive content that is empathetic to their needs. Not all customers even know they want to change or need a particular solution, so ruthless campaigns only tend to make them nervous or ignore the pitch, unless there is a true context in which such campaigns are executed.
  • Thoughtful, not targeted: If we understand the contexts in which our customers operate in, it should give us a lot of food for thought. Some of the best marketing honchos I work with are always focused on: How do we make our customers be successful both professionally and personally? What can we do to improve our customer experiences and enhance their awareness? Where can we find opportunities to paint scenarios of future possibilities that would help them grow their businesses? These thoughtful considerations then begin to drive their marketing–and thus, content–to become more empathetic. Empathetic Marketing appreciates the intelligence of the customer, and treats that intelligence with utmost respect. Targeted marketing simply assumes that the customer or prospect is a potential target and has to be acquired in any manner.
  • Collaborative and cohesive: The most successful marketing campaigns–in the IT services space, especially–have been the ones that marketing built in collaboration with not just their sales counterparts, but also with client partners, engagement and delivery heads, and industry thought-leaders. Collaboration opens up the possibilities of getting to know prospects and existing customers, their goals and ambitions, and the contexts they operate in. And some of the winning marketing campaigns have been all about cohesiveness: ensuring all content put out there are inter-related to each other and build on successive elements of education, validation, and justification in the customers’ buyer journeys.
What are your ideas about the changing marketplace of B2B Marketing? Do you believe in Empathetic Marketing? What has been successful for you? Would love to hear your feedback and thoughts.

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